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Tourism finds Phuket swiftlet aviaries difficult to swallow

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Tourism finds Phuket swiftlet aviaries difficult to swallow | The Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

Having caused problems in other regions of Thailand, the growing number of swiftlet barns in Phuket came under scrutiny at Phuket Provincial Hall last week. Officials have decided to set up ‘zones’ for the business – despite the fact that it is illegal. The Phuket Gazette‘s Stephen Fein and Warisa Temram report.

PHUKET: The Phuket Provincial Office will establish “swiftlet ranching zones” on the island following complaints that flocks of the birds that cough up the key ingredient for birds’ nest soup are creating a public nuisance and health hazard.

Following a complaint filed with the province by the Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC), Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak last Wednesday chaired a meeting on the issue at Phuket Provincial Hall.

The PCC, represented at the meeting by their secretary Surachai Chaiyawat, complained that unregulated growth in the swiftlet ranching industry was harming tourism-related businesses on the island.

Driven by demand from the growing number of Chinese tourists to Phuket, restaurants specializing in bird’s nest soup have sprung up all over the island – some large enough to accommodate many bus loads full of tourists in one sitting.

Bird’s nest soup has been a delicacy in China for over 400 years, largely due to the belief that eating it strengthens the cardiopulmonary system, increases metabolism, can cure the common cold – and even serves as an aphrodisiac. Tour operators specializing in the inbound Chinese market are well aware of Phang Nga Bay’s reputation as an important source of the key ingredient for the soup.

Some of the larger restaurants that specialize in the dish – such as the PP Bird Nest Ltd Company Restaurant at Saphan Hin and another large new establishment on Chao Fa West Road in Wichit – also serve as sort of museums, explaining how the nests can be collected from high up in the limestone cliffs on islands around Phang Nga Bay.

The reality of how the bird’s nests are sourced nowadays is somewhat different, however.

The organized theft of bird nests is a good way to lead any avian species down the path to extinction. As a way of conserving the local white-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) population, the government has long offered private concessions to selected nesting sites on state land, such as in the Phang Nga Bay National Marine Park.

However, actual control of natural swiftlet nesting areas in the south of Thailand has led to violent confrontations and even murder in the past, with many “influential figures” allegedly involved. The conflict surrounding these nesting sites is mostly due to the price of the nests, which can fetch thousands of US dollars in the prime export markets of Hong Kong and the United States of America.

Representatives from the Public Works and Town & Country Planning Phuket Office, the Phuket Treasury Office; Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO), Phuket Provincial Livestock Office, Phuket City Municipality, other local administrative bodies and Phuket Chamber of Commerce all attended the recent meeting.

An officer from the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office told the Gazette after the meeting that rearing swiftlets is clearly unlawful.

“People rearing swiftlets in Phuket are doing so illegally, because the bird is a protected species. Apart from the laws created and upheld by Livestock Department, there are numerous regulations from a variety of government agencies in place that restrict this activity,” he said.

“For example, if you apply for a building permit for your home, then modify the structure to serve as a swiftlet barn, that’s illegal. It is a zoning issue regulated by the Public Works and Town and Country Planning office,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Health also has regulations about swiftlet rearing, because the birds cause noise pollution, air pollution and can carry diseases.

V/Gov Somkiet told the meeting the birds can vector at least 11 different diseases to humans.

Since swiftlet rearing is illegal, there isn’t a single license issued for this activity in Phuket, the source said.

Despite this, the reality on the ground – and also in the air – is that the business is booming and more and more people want to be a part of it.

Not all such investors are in remote, coastal areas. In October, one woman was given 15 days to remove a new structure built for swiftlets on the fourth floor of her commercial building, located in a densely settled area on Montri Road, across the street from the PCC office in the heart of Phuket Town.

Those at the meeting agreed that it would be more realistic to zone the activity, keeping aviaries away from densely-settled areas and other locales where they might cause a nuisance, than to try to enforce existing regulations.

To this effect, the Phuket Provincial Office assigned local government administrative bodies (OrBorTor and municipalities) to inspect all swiftlet aviaries in their jurisdictions as a first step in creating zones where the business would be tolerated.

“Phuket will create swiftlet aviary zones, after which time all illegal aviaries [outside designated zones] will be pulled down by Treasury Office officials in Phuket. At this point, OrBorTor must inspect and record how many aviaries are in their areas of control and make sure they are located in areas where they will not bother anyone. Until the zones are determined, those making a living from raising swiftlets will be allowed to continue,” V/Gov Somkiet said.

“There are very few swallow aviaries in Phuket. Most are at Laem Nga on Koh Sireh and in Nabon [in Chalong],” he added.

To see how people living near the aviaries were affected by them, the Gazette visited the new National Housing Authority project off Rassadanusorn Road in Rassada.

Building 7 of the 16-block complex sits about 100 meters away from one of the largest swiftlet aviaries on the island, which also abuts the popular Pak Nam Seafood Restaurant on Rassadanuson Road.

When the Gazette arrived, the mechanical squealing of artificially-produced swiftlet calls was clearly audible from speakers mounted at the nearby complex of five swiftlet barns. The calls are used to attract swiftlets, which nest in colonies.

Building 7 resident Sopon Maros, 27, said the bird calls fill the air from dawn until about 9am every morning, then again for an hour around dusk.

“It doesn’t really bother me, but other people in this building complain about it,” he said.

A manager at Pak Nam Seafood explained to the Gazette that the bird calls were directed out toward Phang Nga Bay and were hardly audible to their diners. The restaurant had no problem with the aviaries, which were built about two years after the restaurant opened, he said.

However, PCC Secretary Mr Surachai said that without zoning future conflict with resorts and restaurants was inevitable in Phuket.

The owner of a Nissan dealership in Surat Thani and Suzuki motorbike showroom in Phuket, Mr Surachai said other parts of the south have already been negatively affected.

“Parts of the coastal district of Pak Phanang in Nakhon Sri Thammarat are now so overrun with swiftlet barns that the people who used to live in these areas had been forced to move away,” he said.

The biggest threat was the fact that the birds can carry diseases including avian flu, he said.

“What if there were an outbreak and the Public Health Ministry had to declare a quarantine? The publicity would badly da



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Phuket

Police investigate motorbike hoons in Patong

The Thaiger

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Police investigate motorbike hoons in Patong | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Patong Police

Patong Police are investigating alleged foreign motorbike racing gangs in Patong after a viral video clip in local social media.

The Patong Police report that the clip of tourists who have been driving their motorbikes at high speed around the streets of Patong has been very popular and provided them with a lot of information about the locations, the bikes and the riders.

Police are now investigating the incident to find the people on the bikes so they can charge them and take legal action.

Every month they say there are about 2,000 cases as Patong Police enforce the road rules around the tourist town. Patong Traffic Police say they are strictly enforcing traffic rules to prevent road accidents and protect tourists.

Police investigate motorbike hoons in Patong | News by The Thaiger Police investigate motorbike hoons in Patong | News by The Thaiger Police investigate motorbike hoons in Patong | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling?

The Thaiger

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“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling? | The Thaiger

by Krix Luther

The word is out about self-myofascial release – foam rolling – and, no, Thailand people, this doesn’t have to do with a ‘soapy’ or ‘happy-endings’.

So what is foam rolling you ask? Well, it was once a secretive technique used by professional coaches and therapists but has become a regular practice for people across the spectrum of all fitness levels.

Self-myofascial release is just a fancy term for a technique of self-massage that helps deal with muscle tightness and trigger points.

With a massage parlour never being farther than a kilometre away, and decent one-hour massage costing you less than 500 baht, it might be difficult to see the point of learning the technique – which would explain why I always see a bunch of rarely used foam rollers in the corner of Nai Harn Gym in Phuket (one of the places I work).

Nonetheless, the understanding of your body and muscle structures that comes with practising the technique can offer many benefits.

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Prevents chances of DOMS
  • Reduces post-workout stress
  • Helps with post-workout cooldown
  • Reduces recovery time
  • Prevents training-related injuries
  • Reduces chances of overtraining

The practice can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Theracane or your own hands by simply applying pressure to specific points on your body, aiding in the recovery of muscles and assisting in returning them to normal function. We can think of ‘normal function’ as when your muscles are elastic, healthy and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

Foam rolling after a workout will provide deep compression that will help relax tight muscles and adhesions (fibrous bands) between muscle layers and their surroundings. The benefits of foam rolling are outstanding, in addition to increasing blood flow, which will speed up muscle recovery. Foam rolling can be used for a variety of corrective bodywork.

It can loosen muscles to re-balance posture, re-establish proper movement patterns, enhance performance and help create pain-free movement.

Stretching alone is not always enough when it comes to releasing the tightness, which makes the technique very helpful. Additionally, you are able to feel exactly what is happening and adjust the pressure so that it is uncomfortable, but not unbearable – not always the case when it comes to the toes of your Thai masseuse digging into your back.

Krix Luther has been a Personal Trainer in Phuket for more than 10 years, he specialises in weight loss, strength & conditioning, TRX and CrossFit. For more information about Krix and his services, visit krixluther.com

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Phuket

Elderly motorbike driver dies in Thalang crash

The Thaiger

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Elderly motorbike driver dies in Thalang crash | The Thaiger

A 74 year old motorbike driver has died after colliding with a high speed taxi in Thalang this morning.

The Thalang Police headed to the accident near an intersection of Thepkrasattri – Nai Yang Road in Thalang at 7.40am.

When they arrived they found a damaged taxi. Nearby they located the damaged motorbike.

74 year old Somchai Uttasaha, the motorbike driver, was taken to the Thalang Hospital but was later pronounced dead as a result of his injuries.

Police report that the taxi was traveling at high speed. The driver was 48 year old Prasert Malitong.

When the taxi arrived at the location of the incident, the motorbike was allegedly traveling outside his proper traffic lane.  The taxi collided with the motorbike at speed.

The taxi driver has been charged with reckless driving causing death.

Elderly motorbike driver dies in Thalang crash | News by The ThaigerElderly motorbike driver dies in Thalang crash | News by The Thaiger

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